SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A financial showdown more than two years
in the making is slated to play out in the Illinois House on
Thursday as Democrats try to enact a $36 billion spending plan
fueled by a $5 billion income tax increase over the Republican
House votes to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s vetoes of the budget
package would give Illinois its first annual budget since 2015
and spell the end of the nation’s longest fiscal stalemate since
at least the Great Depression.
The first-term governor, already facing several Democratic
heavyweights hoping to displace him in the 2018 election, took to
the trail Wednesday to implore the House — run by Speaker Michael
Madigan of Chicago — to sustain the vetoes. He’s taken to calling
the revenue surcharge “Speaker Madigan’s 32 percent tax hike.”
“This is not just a slap in the face to Illinois taxpayers. This
is a 2-by-4 smacked across the foreheads of the people of
Illinois,” he told reporters at a bar on Chicago’s far South
Side. “This tax hike will solve none of our problems. In fact, in
the long run, it will make our problems worse, not better.”
Rauner, a former private equity investor whose massive personal
wealth has largely funded the state Republican Party, said he
would do “everything possible” to persuade House members to
rebuff Madigan, including 15 House Republicans who broke ranks
and voted in favor of the measure last weekend. Each of the
budget bills cleared the 71-vote veto-proof majority.
He would not elaborate on his tactics.
Rauner has sought pro-business reforms in conjunction with a
budget, including a property tax freeze and term limits, and
blames the state’s failures on Democrats in power, largely
Madigan. Democrats have said many of Rauner’s reforms would hurt
the middle class.
For two weeks, lawmakers have been meeting in a special session
called precisely to deal with the budget. The session was capped
by a flurry of activity on Tuesday, when the Senate sent the
permanent tax hike and spending blueprint to Rauner, who rapidly
vetoed it, only to have the Democratic-controlled Senate just as
swiftly reverse him.
After two holiday-period days in which the House was able to
summon fewer than 60 of its 118 representatives, Madigan
scheduled the override attempt for Thursday, saying House
Democrats are eager to join with Republicans “to begin healing
the wounds of the last several years.”
With a $6.2 billion annual deficit and $14.7 billion in overdue
bills, disaster is around the corner. The United Way predicts the
demise of 36 percent of all human-services agencies in Illinois
by year’s end. Road construction work totaling billions of
dollars is shutting down. Public universities have been cut to
the bone and face a loss of academic accreditation.
The standoff entered a third fiscal year on July 1. Credit-rating
houses have threatened to downgrade the state’s creditworthiness
to “junk,” signaling to investors that buying state debt is a
highly speculative venture. Two agencies gave Illinois some
breathing room Monday after Sunday night’s House votes.
But on Wednesday a third, Moody’s Investors Service, put Illinois
under review for a downgrade even if lawmakers override Rauner’s
veto. Moody’s said that while lawmakers have made progress, the
package the House will consider Thursday does not address the
state’s massively underfunded pensions or do enough to pay down
Rauner dismissed the possibility of another downgrade for
Illinois, which already has the worst credit rating of any U.S.
“Don’t listen to Wall Street. Don’t listen to a bunch of
politicians who want power,” he said after local business owners
talked about rising property taxes and residents going to Indiana
to shop. “Listen to the people of Illinois.”
At least a few House Republicans remained defiant Wednesday.
Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights said he supported the
budget plan because it is “immoral” for the state to carry a huge
backlog of bills and pay $800 million in late-payment interest.
He compared the standoff to a game of “chicken.”
“If it requires some of us to blink to save our state, so be it,”
GOP floor leader Rep. Steven Andersson of Geneva also voted in
favor of the budget, and he does not plan to change his vote.
“The reason I voted yes hasn’t changed,” Andersson said. “In
fact, it’s been reinforced.”
The bills are SB6, SB9 and SB42.
Associated Press Writer Sara Burnett contributed to this report
Tareen reported from Chicago. Follow her on Twitter at
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